I like to call stretch marks my tiger stripes.
I’ve had a few of them on my butt and thighs for most of my adulthood, but I didn’t really start paying attention to them until I got pregnant—when the stretch marks became a lot more noticeable and started appearing on my belly and breasts, too. Instead of getting mad about it, though, I saw them as physical markers representing the amazing things a woman’s body can do (hence “tiger stripes”—we are women, hear us roar!).
Still, despite all the empowered feelings, I wasn’t going to let the stretch marks keep growing and getting darker if there was a feasible way to manage them.
I dive into the most common causes of stretch marks and discover there is hope!
Turns out there are some healthy and effective ways to prevent and minimize stretch marks, for both men and women!
Here’s what I found out.
First, What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks look like streaks or stripes on the skin that are often pink, red or purple in color, but can gradually fade to white. They usually never fully go away, although they can lessen in appearance.
Stretch marks, also called striae, are actually a type of skin scarring that occurs when the skin is stretched too much and can’t properly keep up with the change, or bounce back. Although our skin is pretty elastic, it can still become stripy if it is stretched too far too quickly, like during pregnancy or other times when you gain weight super quickly.
Stretch marks essentially form when collagen and elastin fibers in the middle layer of the skin (the dermis) break. This causes the blood vessels in the skin to become far more visible, which results in the red/purple hue of stretch marks. Given time, the blood vessels heal and stretch marks fade away to a white or even translucent color.
Collagen and elastin are proteins that give skin its bounce and elasticity in the first place. Thus, the rupturing of these fibers can affect skin quite considerably. However, you should keep in mind that stretch marks are not a health concern, but rather a cosmetic one.
Up to 90% of women can get them during pregnancy, and some rapidly growing children can experience them during puberty. Stretch marks can also affect both men and women.
New mom? Read our guide to your newborn's skin here.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
There are several causes for stretch marks, and their severity can be affected by a variety of factors.
Genetic makeup (if your parents had stretch marks, you’re more likely to have them too) and cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) levels are two factors that can have a great effect on the degree of stretch marks. More common causes include pregnancy and weight gain or loss.
The skin has three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Stretch marks primarily affect the dermis, which contains an intricate weave of collagen and elastin fibers that keep skin pliable, tight and firm.
When we’re young, we have an abundance of collagen and elastin fibers. As we age, these fibers begin to diminish and degrade.
Stretch marks form when these fibers rupture. It can be difficult but not impossible to help restore the collagen and elastin fibers and restore skin to its youthful and unblemished radiance once more. Clinical studies have shown ingesting collagen peptides 10,000mg daily can help increase collagen density.
7 Most Common Causes Of Stretch Marks
1. Rapid Weight Gain Or Loss
Gaining weight in a relatively short amount of time can cause excessive skin stretching. Stretch marks from weight loss can also occur. Stretch marks on thighs and stretch marks on nothingstomach can be especially common as weight gain often seems to appear in these areas first.
With pregnancy, some women may experience a lot of weight gain in a short amount of time. This can lead to stretch marks, as can the actual stretching of the abdomen as the baby grows. Stretch marks on stomach and breasts can be very common for pregnant women, especially younger ones.
3. Hormone Levels
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands under stress. It's the fight and flight natural response. However, the downside is It affects elastin fibers by weakening them, thus leading to the appearance of stretch marks.
During puberty, a period of rapid growth in height is common for some people. This can lead to skin stretching that ultimately results in stretch marks.
5. Rapid Muscle Gain From Weight Training
Working out and weight lifting to gain more muscle can also result in stretch marks, according to Dr. Gerald Imber, who spoke to TheBump.com. This happens when the muscle expands so fast and stretch the skin. Since there is only so much skin on the body, eventually it has to give way and stretch marks appear.
6. Prolonged Corticosteroid Use
Corticosteroids pills, lotions or creams are often prescribed by dermatologists, but using them too often can actually cause skin issues like acne and stretch marks. Corticosteroids decrease the skin’s ability to stretch.
7. Cushing’s Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, And Other Genetic Disorders
These diseases can cause stretch marks by affecting cortisol levels, as in the case of Cushing’s syndrome, or levels of collagen, as in the case of Marfan syndrome. In Marfan syndrome, stretch marks may appear in areas like the shoulders, lower back, and hips, without weight gain.
The 5 Best Stretch Marks Treatments and Best Prevention Methods
It’s best not to fall for every gimmicky cream or lotion that promises to cure stretch marks. As Jennifer MacGregor, MD, told TheBump.com, “Once stretch marks occur, they are permanent.”
Don’t despair, though! Stretch marks fade away on their own, usually within a few months, and this fading can be accelerated along with the use of certain treatments.
1. Topical Treatments
Some topical treatments can help reduce the overall appearance of stretch marks, though they will not get rid of them entirely. Jennifer MacGregor, MD, told TheBump.com that people suffering from stretch marks should “moisturize regularly with ceramide creams.”
Retinoid creams can also help. Retinoids, like tretinoin, are derived from vitamin A. "Tretinoin encourages collagen remodeling, which helps heal scars—and stretch marks are a form of scarring," Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, told Prevention.com.
Regular use of retinoids can help to gradually lighten the appearance of stretch marks until they are closer in hue to the surrounding, healthy skin. Even just regular moisturizing can be helpful in preventing stretch marks, however. Hale says that well-hydrated skin is “more supple” and may be less likely to show the adverse effects of stretching.
Regular exercise can keep skin firm, and keep you at a healthy weight, so you are far less likely to develop stretch marks in the first place.
Be careful of excessive weightlifting, however, as this can actually cause stretch marks to form.
Cardio, light weightlifting, running, swimming, walking and similar exercises can help keep your weight at its optimal level – and then you won’t have to worry about stretch marks at all!
Similar to regular exercise, a diet high in protein and low in fat and sugar can help prevent stretch marks by keeping you at a healthy, normal weight.
“The best advice is to try and have a slow and steady weight gain during pregnancy, which will minimize the chance of getting stretch marks,” Justine Hextall, MD, said on Hellomagazine.com.
If you’re pregnant, you can work with your doctor to come up with a healthy meal plan and exercise routine (if you’ve been cleared to exercise during pregnancy, of course) that will help keep your pregnancy weight gain at a controlled level.
Good circulation can potentially help prevent or treat stretch marks. One study noted that an increase in "blood perfusion," or blood flow, was needed in order to "improve the appearance and reduce the symptoms" of stretch marks. Some ways you can promote good circulation is walking, stretching and controlling your stress levels.
You can also try dry brushing the stretch mark-affected areas, which helps circulation and lymphatic system.
5. Collagen For Stretch Marks
Orally ingesting the best liquid collagen supplement may have the ability to reduce the appearance of stretch marks or help to prevent them. Collagen is essential in keeping skin taut, flexible and firm. As we age, we lose collagen gradually, making us more susceptible to wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Stretch marks also develop due to a lack of collagen in the body. Plastic surgeon Scott Wells, MD, told Byrdie.com, "A stretch mark is a tear in the collagen fabric of the dermis that occurs whenever the skin is stretched beyond its tensile limits." He further compared the tearing to a run in a stocking. "Since stretch marks are actually an area of the skin where the collagen is damaged, treatments to improve stretch marks are directed at rebuilding the integrity of the collagen in the area of the mark."
So you can see why increasing your collagen intake can potentially help make stretch marks less noticeable and could prevent them from happening. There are so many collagen supplements in the market, make sure to do your research before buying.
Topical and Oral Collagen Differences
It’s not enough to only apply creams containing collagen, as the molecules are often too big to penetrate into the dermis, where the damage is located.
Oral consumption of collagen in the form of collagen peptides, on the other hand, can address this problem because it allows the collagen peptides to go deeper into the skin and penetrate the dermis more easily via blood vessels, and from there it can stimulate collagen production and jumpstart the healing process.
Taking a high-quality collagen supplement can also help prevent stretch marks in the first place. As we already established, it is a lack of collagen in the skin and damaged collagen that allows stretch marks to form.
By strengthening your natural collagen via oral consumption, you can ensure your skin is tough enough and flexible enough to withstand weight gain, whether it’s from pregnancy or otherwise. Denser skin with more elasticity is less likely to become marred by stretch marks, and oral consumption of collagen can help you achieve that.
How to Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy: Taut Premium Collagen Advanced Formula
If you’re trying to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy and strengthen collagen from within, try Taut’s Premium Collagen Advanced Formula. This pure marine collagen peptide formula helps boost skin elasticity and thickness thanks to powerful ingredients like marine collagen, hyaluronic acid, elastin, and grape seed extract.
Active ingredients include high concentration 13000mg marine collagen, grape seed extract, elastin peptides, ceramides and vitamin C. Grape seed extract helps protect skin from free radicals (unstable atoms) that can degrade and weaken your body’s natural collagen reserves.
With this added protection and the combined powers of marine collagen, vitamin C and elastin peptides, you can begin to conquer stretch marks from the inside out.
How to Repair Stretch Marks and Minimize Them: Taut Collagen Intense Transformation Program
If you're already experiencing stretch marks, the most effective collagen for stretch marks is Taut’s Intense Transformation Program.
This program includes 3 boxes of drinkable liquid collagen ( Taut Premium Collagen Advanced Formula - 24 bottles) designed to kick-start your collagen production by triggering the body’s natural wound repair response. The high concentration collagen peptides 13000mg penetrates deep into the dermis to begin the healing process that will ultimately make stretch marks far less noticeable.
But if you prefer stripe-free skin, try my tips. The best part? If you implement these treatment and preventative actions, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of amazing side effects, like glowing and firmer skin!
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